Saturday, November 27, 2010

Toe Socks for Christmas

We walk closely with God these days. I am reminded of that regularly, in ways subtle and less subtle.

While we continue to live the miracle of His gift, and while legions pray for us daily, God nudges, probes, leads and pushes, helping us grow closer to Him. So a lesson this month.

In my English classes, I have given one particular assignment for, oh, probably 20 years. As many of my blog readers are also former students, they will nod and remember. Every week, in addition to whatever else I dream up for them, each student must write, long hand, a brief journal entry.
It’s a snap, really. I scrawl a prompt on the board. They can write about the prompt. Or they can write about something else. Although I try to come up with topics that will stimulate them, we’ve all probably been faced with a topic that struck us as obscure. For example, one of my friends specializes in such inspirational prompts as “You’re a tomato. Now write…”

There are those kids whose juices come to the surface when they get to create around such a topic. But most want something much more structured, like “If you could change one thing about school, what would you change and why?”

Their entries must have a name and date on it and must be turned in, to the designated place, by 3 PM on Friday. That last part seems to be the toughest part. By assigning once, no one reminds them. No one nags. No one cuts them slack when, oops, they wrote it but forgot to turn it in.

The hand-written component makes them slow down. I remind them (they smile and nod and roll the eyes) that many great works of literature were penned with pen and ink from an ink well. The writer could get 4 or 5 words down on paper before he needed to revisit the pot.

Let’s face it: it also cuts down on recycling something they wrote for another class.
When the semester ends, I pass them back and, whether they know it or not, they get a personal slice of history at this time of their lives. I always tell them that if they can put these away for 10 years and then bring them out, they will find them great reading.

I wonder if anyone actually does that. I should be hearing from former students soon, yes?
Anyway, recently the prompt was:

Christmas is coming. Tell Santa what you want.

I don’t know how well we’re fostering ‘critical thinking,’ in public education, but we ARE raising consumers. Most dove right in, smiling, to create their personal gift lists.

A car. A vacation. A WI. A smart phone. A flat screen tv. Clothes. Money. Plastic surgery. (really)

And as prom was looming, there were adjacent ‘needs.’ Hair, nails, shoes, limo. And, etc.

By now, some of my students feel close enough to include their instructor:

Hey Santa Bolinger, take out that big fat wallet and…..
Let’s go shopping with your gold card. I’ll buy you a latte.
Tell Mr. B to bring the checkbook
Why don’t you pass me your car and get yourself a new one?

And, prior to turn in, it’s common for them to share their wishes with each other. Kind of a consumption contest.

Then, it was my turn. So, as I read through them, smiling mostly, one caught me
off guard.

“For Christmas, I would ask Santa for one thing. I would really like some toe socks.
They are my favorite. They are hard to slip on, sometimes. But they keep my toes really warm. We have to keep the heat down now and my feet get cold so toe socks would help with that.”

Ok, I know that Kokomo is going through hard financial times. I know that, this year, lots of our students get free breakfast and lunch; many more get help with books. But this request, in the midst of class frivolity, came from her very real need.

She’s one of 150 kids. Quiet. No trouble. Nothing to make her stand out. Except this.
I came home and told Mike. Our minds work along the same lines mostly these days. “We need to buy her some socks.”

And we did.

So the lesson learned is that in the middle of busy, in the middle of lessons, personalities, assignments, tests, and etc of school, there are those right in front of me with real physical needs.

I will raise my chin and look for the needy. God places them in front of me. I must see them and do as He directs.

1 comment:

  1. Oh what a lovely and heart tugging post. I immediately thought (before I read to the very end) "I need to send Lynn some toe socks to give to her student, the one with the cold toes." I don't think I've told you that my schizophrenic brother was homeless in downtown Washington DC for many years. No, of course I haven't. Even after we moved him to Richmond, I would always see homeless people in the city, crossing the 14th St. bridge and on up to my K St. office. At lunch I would walk to the McDonald's that's just passed the Women's Museum on NY Ave and would by a bunch of hamburgers. On my way back to the office I would distribute the aforementiuone burgers to each homeless individual I would see. I used to also pick up "sluggers" at the slug line near my house and give them a ride into the Pentagon or up to K St. Sometimes those sluggers (see would leave their gloves or umbrella, or phone in my car. I'd post signs at the slug lot and wait a few days in case I saw the slugger again, and when I didn't, I would find a homeless person to whom to "bequeath" the lost/found article. One day in particular, I saw a homeless man I recognized and at a traffic light I rolled down my window and quickly handed him the gloves and for some unknown reason I yelled "gloves". To my surprise he yelled back "Thank you" as I was driving away when the light had turned from red to green. Another time when I stopped to buy a copy of the Post from the same homeless (glove) guy in the 14 St. median (turned out that the Washington Post had given the homeless man a job selling newspapers) and along with the $.50 for a copy of the Post, I handed him a cup of coffee I'd brought with me. It turned out that the slugger I had in the front seat was the homeless man's father, a fellow attorney. The next time I'd picked up the same man in the slug line, we talked and he told me his son's story and his battle with schizophrenia. God bless you and Mike.